MELBOURNE has been dealt a giant double blow on the eve of its maiden AFLW finals campaign, with Irish recruits Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy returning home in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
Womens.afl understands that Goldrick and McEvoy returned to Ireland on Wednesday, with the Demons now scrambling to ensure they have a full squad ahead of their knockout final against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
It's understood that Irish AFLW players set to feature in the upcoming finals series have been briefed about whether they should return home, with clubs willing to allow their foreign recruits the opportunity to leave should they wish.
It comes in the aftermath of a St Patrick's Day address from Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who upgraded the country's travel advice having already closed all schools, universities, bars and childcare facilities until March 29.
It leaves Melbourne’s playing stocks dangerously low ahead of its final.
WATCH IT LIVE How to follow the AFLW this weekend
Five players are out due to torn ACLs (Katherine Smith, Shae Sloane, Ainslie Kemp, Sarah Lampard and Maddy Guerin), while two have missed the past few weeks with illness (Shelley Heath and Meg Downie).
Lauren Pearce has also been sidelined for two weeks with knee soreness, while Bianca Jakobsson has been unavailable all year due to work commitments.
If the Dees are unable field Heath, Downie and Pearce this weekend, their senior-listed playing stocks sit at just 21.
Injury train-ons Sarah Perkins and Kirby Bentley would both have to be named in order to field a squad of 23.
Goldrick and McEvoy have missed just one game between them all season, with their ability to run and carry at either end of the field proving pivotal so far this year.